We all know that the teenage dancers were always ‘bopping’ in rock’n’roll songs 1950s but what was the ‘bop’ as a dance ? What it definitely wasn’t was the ‘bop’ as it was known since the 1960s among the British teddy boy fraternity, a singleton dance. The 1950s bop may have been danced at times by individuals but it was basically a couple dance and is so described in countless rock’n’roll lyrics of the 50s.
In a criminally short clip from 2014, Californian Michael Quebec and partner Diana, demonstrated the difference between the 1950s jive (US jitterbug ~ swing) and the bop:
You need to look at the clip to get a better appreciation of the nature of both dances (see here, starting at 0:25) but the difference of the bop lies in the fact that the body is arched, the knees bent and the dancing is done more on the toes. This posture enables more sudden movement and more varied changes of direction and it suited the youngest and most sprightly bodies, the growing generation of teenagers of 1950s America. The bop style reached Britain in the 1950s and it is the arched posture that links it to the singleton bop that became the staple dance of the teddy boys in the 1960s. In the clip, Mike and Diana dance perform the bop separately facing each other before joining hands. I don’t think I have seen filmed evidence of singleton bop dancing from the 1950s, the evidence is rare, most films, whether professional or amateur, were more interested in depicting formal dance settings than what might otherwise have been considered unseemly. However, it stands to reason that individuals got excited with the new rock’n’roll and could sometimes not control their urge to dance, partner or not. The question then is how did excited individuals express their love of rock’n’roll through a dance style … I really wonder if this something we can ever pretend to be certain about … By the way, take a peek at Michael Quebec’s Youtube channel here for good demonstrations of vintage dances such as the swing and the lindyhop, as well as one clip teaching the 1950s line dance, the Madison.
Probably a good demonstration of authentic 1950s couple bopping by Canadian couple Gabrielle Lecavalier and Anthony Demeter from 2018 (not sure about the 1950s authenticity of their solos later in the clip, his style looks hick, but in truth I have no idea).